Mules comeback effort thwarted by Griffons

Central Missouri’s Gaven Pinkley makes a pass while falling out of bounds in the second half of the Mules 84-80 loss to Missouri Western on Saturday, Feb. 8.

ST. JOSEPH — Despite Missouri Western hitting 15 3-pointers, Central Missouri had its chances to pull out a win at the Looney Complex on Saturday, Feb. 8, over the Griffons. Missed chances, a questionable call and a late turnover kept the Mules from completing the comeback attempt in an 84-80 loss.

The Griffons could not miss from beyond the arc in the opening half.

Central Missouri entered the week holding teams to a 31.8% shooting percentage from three. No. 1 Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western combined to shoot 48.4% from range. In Thursday’s, Feb. 6, loss, the Bearcats went 16 of 29 from behind the arc for a 55.1% clip.

The Griffons converted 10 of their first 19 3-pointers, finishing 15 of 31 from deep.

“The first half felt like Thursday night all over again,” Central Missouri coach Doug Karleskint said. “The barrage of three pointers that they hit were incredible.

Reese Glover provided the hot hand off the bench, going 8 of 12 from three for a game-high 26 points.

Glover converted four of his five five attempts from range, matched by Tyus Millhollin, who also knocked down four 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.

The scoring blitz began with five minutes, 47 seconds left in the opening half, breaking open a nearly evenly-matched contest that saw Missouri Western leading by two, 27-25.

The Griffons drained 7 of 8 shots from behind the arc — the lone miss turned into an lay-up off of an offensive board — to go into the half leading 49-35 after Kendale Hampton knocked down a shot at the horn.

“I thought we were doing some good things offensively in the first half, I really do,” Karleskint said. “We didn’t finish well though.” I thought Gaven (Pinkley) played a lot stronger off two feet at the rim in the second half compared to the first half.”

Pinkley dragged the Mules back into the contest in the second half, scoring 15 of his 25 points on the night after halftime.

The sophomore opened the second stanza with five straight points to get the deficit down to single digits.

Missouri Western missed its first six 3-pointers of the second half and cooled off to just 5 of 16 in the final 20 minutes.

“I told the guys the averages will even out and they did in the second half,” Karleskint said.

The Griffons lead remained in double-figures until a 6-0 burst by the Mules, capped by a 3-pointer by DeAndre Sorrells got UCM within seven, 75-68, with 4:40 remaining.

Michael Winger scored six-straight points for the Mules to bring the deficit down to five, 76-71.

Pinkley made it a one possession game by converting a layup through contact and the subsequent free throws.

Controversy struck with 33 seconds left with the Mules down three, 81-78.

The Missouri Western inbounder’s pass slipped out of his hands, falling backwards into the stands. The play was blown dead and after a meeting between the referees, the ball was awarded back to Missouri Western — despite five seconds elapsing between the referee putting the ball in play in addition to the Missouri Western player moving to pick up the ball.

“It’s obviously tough,” Karleskint said. “Inadvertent whistle is what I was told, and that gives the ball back to them.”

UCM was kept alive by a missed free throw by Millhollin, leaving the game within a possession.

Sorrells had an open look for a game-tying 3-pointer with 14 seconds left., but missed. Missouri Western failed to ice the game away, splitting its trip to the free throw line, making it 82-78.

Garrett Luinstra, who scored six of his nine points in the second half, kept UCM in the game with a quick layup off the rebound to make it 82-80 with seven ticks left on the clock.

The Mules got one more opportunity to tie or take the lead after a Missouri Western turnover with 1.5 seconds on the inbounds following Luinstra’s basket.

Central Missouri couldn’t make anything happen with the extra possession as Daniel Farris’ inbounds pass was snagged by Missouri Western’s Will Eames.

“There was a lot of physicality going on down low,” Karleskint said. “We wanted to throw it up to Gaven, I thought he was available. The second guy, which would have been an easier pass for (Farris) was on the ground. So we didn’t have an outlet to go to, so (Farris)was trying to make that pass over the top. They made it tough and got a hand on it.”

Central Missouri ended the afternoon shooting 50% from the field — the Mules best mark against a Division II opponent and 37.5% from deep while Missouri Western shot at a 52.5% clip.

“I was proud of our fight, but we dug a hole,” Karleskint said. “We missed some at the rim, but they hit some tough shots. I wasn’t too terribly disappointed in us defensively, they hit some deep shots and some with hands in their face and that’s when you have to tip your cap and give them credit.”

The Mules fall to 9-13 on the season and 4-9 in MIAA, sitting in a three-way tie for ninth place with Emporia State and Fort Hays State.

Central Missouri will host Fort Hays State at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, with the winner coming away with a crucial tie-breaker for a spot in the MIAA tournament.

Sports Editor Randy Speer can be reached by emailing randy.speer@dsjnow.com, by calling (660) 747-8123 or on Twitter at @RandySpeer_DSJ.

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